Faith Community Preparedness Blog

On Friday, May 30 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response will host a Google Hangout to discuss the role faith-based leaders can play in supporting national health security through community resilience. Faith-based leaders are community leaders, and centers of religious life very often also serve as hubs of social connectivity. As a result, faith-based leaders can play an extremely important role in strengthening and sustaining communities’ abilities to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from incidents with negative health consequences through individual and community resilience. During this Hangout, you will hear from panelists about what faith-based leaders can do to advance health security through community resilience, the importance of America’s PrepareAthon and how the faith-based community can be involved, and a local faith…Read full article »

Author: Vivian OrlowskiMarch 30, 20145:03 pm

Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) Summit

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Emergency assistance from federal and state agencies may not arrive on the scene immediately following a disaster.  Indeed, tells us to prepare food, water and other supplies to last on our own for 72 hours (three days). This scenario is especially relevant in predominantly rural areas such as western Massachusetts.  If delays occur and people seek help locally, what happens? Local Response by Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations Reflecting his decades of emergency experience on the local, county, state and federal levels, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate observed in The National Disaster Recovery Framework: “When disaster strikes, the initial services provided may not come from government, but rather from churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based and community organizations…FEMA is working to improve our preparedness through the Whole Community framework.” Berkshire COAD and Pioneer Valley COAD Given that reality, Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COADs) can connect a broad cross-section of…Read full article »

Author: Vivian OrlowskiMarch 21, 20145:03 am

Preparing is Caring: A Toolkit for Emergency Rest Centers

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The volunteers and staff members who serve the community in response to an emergency are vital to the effective operation of  Emergency Rest Centers (ERCs).  It is the person-to-person contact that is so important for assisting and reassuring those impacted by a disaster and seeking a friendly part-time refuge.  As described in the toolkit, “ERCs are like a community open house with set hours, welcoming people with varying functional and emergency-related needs…” Advantages of ERC Preparation While Emergency Rest Centers can arise spontaneously, faith-based groups preparing in advance have the advantage of: Helping volunteers and staff gain needed training Arranging essential review and adaptation of facilities Opening channels of communication with Emergency Management Directors, Emergency Responders and local/regional officials Promoting cooperative relationships in advance of a disaster. Learning from Recent Regional Disasters With Western Massachusetts having experienced recent disasters such as tornadoes, flooding, snow/ice storm power outages, how can new…Read full article »

Author: Vivian OrlowskiMarch 14, 20143:03 pm

Emergency Rest Center Partnerships: A Tale of Two Towns

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When Hurricane Irene struck New England a few years ago, its impact was quite different in two Berkshire towns.  Sheffield, located in South County, emerged relatively unscathed.  In contrast, Williamstown in North County experienced severe flooding, which displaced 300 residents of The Spruces Mobile Home Park. [caption id="attachment_1937" align="alignleft" width="300"]Sheffield Town Hall[/caption] Despite their different experiences, local leaders in both towns recognize that forming preparedness partnerships will strengthen their responses to future emergencies. Planning for Emergency Rest Centers (ERCs) is a new initiative underway in both towns to advance this effort. In each case, faith leaders play vital roles, but draw on different contexts and resources. Sheffield Emergency Rest Center Partnership: Inclusive Outreach and Participation [caption id="attachment_1938" align="alignleft" width="300"]Christ Church Episcopal & Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheffield[/caption] In order to encourage collaborative effort, the Faith Community Partnering for Emergency Preparedness Project (FCPEP) recruited 16 local leaders to launch a proactive planning…Read full article »

Author: Vivian OrlowskiAugust 8, 20135:08 pm

New Partnerships for Emergency Rest Centers

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Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano meets with Pastor Kevin Clarkson at the First Baptist Church, which helped residents impacted by the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. The Rev. David L. Myers, Director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, looks on.  Photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA. With our region experiencing more severe weather emergencies, what can we do to prepare locally? The vital role of the faith community partnering with emergency responders to advance whole community resilience is highlighted in a new initiative on Emergency Rest Centers (ERCs). The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council recently initiated outreach on Emergency Rest Centers as the third phase of Faith Community Partnering for Emergency Preparedness (FCPEP) started in 2011.  This project will provide assistance to faith-based and community organizations to help develop ERCs in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties. ERC Experience in NYC Emergency Rest Centers were developed in New…Read full article »

Author: 6:30 PM-9:30 PMApril 12, 201310:04 am

SKYWARN Training

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SKYWARN is a free training sponsored by Franklin County Citizen Corps Programs and is geared toward anyone interested in public service and in potentially joining the SKYWARN® volunteer program. Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and other concerned private citizens. Individuals affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches, nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are also encouraged to become a spotter. The SKYWARN training covers fundamentals of thunderstorm development, storm structure, and identification of potential severe weather features. It also includes basic severe weather safety informtion. Free food  will be provided. For more information, please see this flyer. Please register by calling 413-774-3167 x 101 or email SKYWARN® is a registered trademark of NOAA's National Weather Service      Read full article »

Author: Vivian OrlowskiDecember 15, 20122:12 pm

Faith Community Coming Together, Reaching Out

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David Myers-DHS Director of Faith Based & Community Initiatives works with Joshua Dubois-Executive Director of White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships carry debris from a home affected by the recent storms and flooding. In face of unprecedented loss, whether from natural disasters or human-caused devastation, how does the community respond?  What can the faith community do? One person who has frequently been on the scene is David L. Myers.  As Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security, he often meets with faith community volunteers helping with disaster recovery efforts. Earlier in 2012, Rev. Myers came to the Berkshires to present the keynote address to more than 100 western Massachusetts leaders at the Faith Community and Emergency Responders Forum. With his perspective of having visited numerous FEMA sites and faith-based groups engaged in providing essentials to survivors, mucking out flooded houses,…Read full article »

Children run the “coat check” station for Occupy Sandy volunteers at the Episcopal Church  of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn, NY. Courtesey: Episcopal News Service. Photo/Rev. Michael Sniffen “This was the church at its best,” was the sentiment voiced by Episcopalians commenting on how their churches became relief distribution centers and safe havens for Hurricane Sandy survivors in fall 2012. As the Episcopal News Service reported: Churches responded by opening their doors as warming, charging and feeding stations; collecting and distributing emergency supplies and meals; and dispatching volunteers to visit and inventory the needs of those most affected by the storm...”The community-building is amazing,” said the Rev. Michael Sniffen, rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn, New York, in the Diocese of Long Island. “A lot of the volunteers have been coming back day after day, so we’re all getting to know one another.” The…Read full article »

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Can you imagine suddenly losing your home, your car and almost all your other possessions? Can you imagine having your community destroyed, your world turned upside down? Breezy Point, NY after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Walt Jennings/FEMA These are the devastating realities that not only presented enormous material and financial challenges to survivors of Hurricane Sandy, but also resulted in many experiencing emotional trauma. What do you say to survivors in the aftermath of Sandy or other major disasters? While some may require professional counseling, many people can be helped by psychological first aid. Just a few days before Hurricane Sandy struck, more than 40 members of the faith community, along with regional emergency responders, took part in a Psychological First Aid Workshop sponsored by the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) at St. Ann Church in Lenox.  Psychological First Aid Workshop in Lenox. Photo by Kim McMann Organized…Read full article »